According to recent studies, younger generations aren’t interested in a traditional lifestyle. Marriage rates have decreased to historic lows: Only about 31 percent of single women decided to tie the knot last year, compared to more than 92 percent in 1920, and just over half of Americans maintain a marriage, while in 1960 more than 72 percent of couples were legally wed. Moreover, owning a house seems no longer an imperative of adulthood, since only about a third of modern young adults decide to take out a mortgage — which is another historic low.
Why Settling Down Is Definitely Not Giving Up
Experts have put forth a handful of reasons for why Gen-Xers and millennials are acting outside tradition. Many blame the tumultuous economy of the 1990s and 2000s, which perhaps taught today’s young adults to save, save, save and avoid making risky financial choices like marriage and homeownership. Others suppose the behavior is backlash against Baby Boomers’ rigid lifestyles. While there is merit to both of these theories, it seems to be just that millennials are defying long-held norms for a different reason: fear.
The YOLO Problem
While the phrase has recently gone out of style, becoming a punchline rather than a dynamic motto, many young adults today are still motivated by the belief that they each have one life and that it would be a shame to waste it. When taken lightly, such motivation to take pleasure in life and relish new experiences could be beneficial — but many young people take YOLO too far.
In the spirit of living life to the fullest, plenty of young individuals, including minors, glorify dangerous and illegal behaviors, like underage alcohol and drug use or driving while intoxicated. Unfortunately, such acts often make YOLO a self-fulfilling prophesy, as they put revelers’ lives in peril. Still, the impulse to see, hear, feel, taste, smell, and do everything the world has to offer is a strong one, especially among newer generations of young adults.
The Fear of Settling
Even those Gen-Xers and millennials who disregard the YOLO impulse are often afraid to apply for a salaried career, buy a house, and tie the knot — not because they are afraid of dying without knowing the world, but because they are afraid of living with the second-best. Most adults understand the displeasure of relationships with less-than-satisfying jobs, apartments, and partners, and it is easy to suppose that after a while, any lifestyle will become disappointing in some way. This, in conjunction with fairy tales of soul mates and lottery winnings, discourages young people from committing to a traditional, married-with-house-and-kids way of life.
The Upside of Slowing Down
What many young people who fall prey to the fear of settling fail to recognize is that a fast-paced, unpredictable lifestyle usually isn’t sustainable. Eventually, the resources they rely on to maintain their open-ended, exciting existence — parent’s funding or meager part-time income — will dry up or otherwise become insufficient. By opting to become less restless and follow a traditional path, a young person can improve himself with an advanced education like a master’s in real estate and find a reliable source of income to pay for a stimulating lifestyle — which may be less boundless that it was previously but it will be no less thrilling, surely.
Then again, settling down offers different challenges that many young people fail to consider as exhilarating — owning a home, being married, and raising children. Anyone who enjoys being a parent can attest that a new baby’s ability to take one’s breath away rivals that of the most exotic destination or the most rousing concert. While a handful of individuals break tradition and have these experiences without abandoning a footloose-and-fancy-free lifestyle, it is by far easiest to balance life, love, and work by electing to grow roots and slow down.
Other Benefits to a Steady Lifestyle
What’s more, several studies have shown that individuals who elect to settle down are better off: Nearly every comparison study concludes that married men and women live longer, healthier, happier lives than lifelong singletons. Through the years, researchers have discovered that married individuals:
- Earn roughly 22 percent more than single individuals with equivalent educations and work histories.
- Are 20 percent more likely to exercise regularly.
- Win higher performance ratings and faster promotions.
- Enjoy more frequent, high-quality sex in every country.
- Are four times less likely to be victims of violent crimes.